While it was not surprising that as part of the ongoing probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections, the House Intel Committee issued a total of seven subpoenas on Wednesday as the WSJ reported, what was surprisng is that in addition to four subpoenas focusing purely on the Russia investigation, the Republican-led committee also issued three subpoenas focusing on "unmasking" questions, involving how and why the names of associates of President Donald Trump were unredacted and distributed within classified reports by Obama administration officials during the transition between administrations.
As part of the "unmasking" investigation, in addition to the NSA, the House committee also subpoeaned the FBI and the CIA for information on how and why Trump-linked names were exposed to the entire US intel community, and led to an avalanche of "unnamed sources" stories. Recall that typically information about Americans intercepted in foreign surveillance is redacted, even in classified reports distributed within the government, unless a compelling need exists to reveal them. Unmasking requests aren’t uncommon by top intelligence community officials but Republicans want to know whether any of the unmaskings of Trump campaign officials during the transition were politically motivated.
According to the WSJ, Republicans on the committee have been pushing for a thorough investigation of how the names of Trump campaign officials became exposed in classified intelligence reports based off intelligence community intercepts. Specifically, the three "unmaksing" subpoenas seek information on requests made by former national security adviser Susan Rice, former CIA Director John Brennan and former United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power for names to be unmasked in classified material.
The name of Samantha Power hasn’t previously been reported as a potential witness in the probe, and her inclusion in the subpoenas means that Republicans are also broadening their areas of investigation, the WSJ reports.
The House Intelligence Committee is one of two bodies currently probing the question of whether Russian meddled in the 2016 election and whether anyone from Trump’s campaign played a role.
Concurrently, the Senate Intelligence Committee is conducting its own investigation and has already issued subpoenas to Flynn and his businesses. Trump has said there was no collusion with Russia and called the investigation a witch hunt.
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In addition to the above three, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and one of President Donald Trump’s personal lawyers, Michael Cohen, were also subpoenaed Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee. Subpoenas were also approved by the committee for documents in possession of the Flynn Intel Group LLC, and Michael D. Cohen & Associates PC, Bloomberg reported.
"We approved subpoenas for several individuals for testimony, personal documents and business records," Republican Mike Conaway of Texas, who is leading the probe, and Adam Schiff of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the House panel, said in a joint statement. "We hope and expect that anyone called to testify or provide documents will comply with that request, so that we may gain all the information within the scope of our investigation."
While Flynn has previously said he would invoke the Fifth to avoid testimony, Cohen dismissed any talk of collusion with Russia. “To date, there has not been a single witness, document or piece of evidence linking me to this fake Russian conspiracy," Cohen said in a statement Tuesday. "This is not surprising to me because there is none."
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It would, of course, be quite ironic if as a result of all these various probe, investigations and "witch hunts", Trump is cleared of all "collusion" allegations, while members of the previous administration end up facing civil or criminal charges.